The two biggest stars of the Spanish La Liga are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, by miles. They’re also the biggest stars in the world, maybe not just of football. By miles? Depends where you are. Their unmatched dominance and goal scoring numbers while playing for two of the biggest rivals in the European game often leads to all kind of comparisons.
Usually, Messi comes out as the winner, by subjective and objective measures. It’s just easier to like him, and in recent years, Barcelona simply gobbled up most of the available titles. Last year was a bit of a change, and Messi not appearing in the Euro (people who all they know about football revolves around Barcelona were actually surprised not seeing Messi on the Spanish team) was a chance for Cristiano Ronaldo to gain some steam in the Ballon d’Or race. I’m not sure that 3 goals and a semifinal appearance were enough after Messi’s record breaking season.
Vicente Del Bosque doesn’t usually get too much recognition for being a great manager, tactical genius or innovater. But titles? He’s won them all – league titles and the Champions League with Real Madrid, a World Cup and a Euro with Spain. The only football manager to have won the Champions League, the European Championship, and the World Cup.
So even if there are better managers around, who know more about the game about him and didn’t always had the amount of talent Del Bosque got to manage with his teams (Golden age Spain, Pre-Galacticos Real), when he talks about the rivalry of Messi and Ronaldo and actually preferring one of them to the other to have on his team, it’s worth listening to.
A lot of people refer to Spain as an extension of Barcelona, especially because of the style and the dominance of Barca players in the midfield, as the golden age of Spanish success is probably identified with Xavi and Iniesta than with anyone else, except for Iker Casillas. Still, Del Bosque would prefer Messi to Ronaldo, despite the Real Madrid connection, to play for his team. Maybe it’s because of the Barca affinity, but Del Bosque says that Messi is a deadlier player, and has more of ‘street’ to him, which makes him a better choice for him.
But who’s better? Who deserves the Ballon d’Or? Del Bosque didn’t want to answer, not really believing in the award – I don’t like the Ballon d’Or. It’s just a marketing tool for FIFA. If they offer me the best manager of the year award I’ll obviously accept, but only because I don’t want to piss FIFA off.